Canada’s PM announces new ‘open, merit-based’ selection process for hundreds of senior public service roles

By on 25/02/2016 | Updated on 25/09/2020
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau

The appointment process for 1,500 of Canada’s most senior public servants is set to become more transparent under proposals announced by prime minister Justin Trudeau today.

Under the old system, selection committees – sometimes working with private sector head-hunters – would put forward a shortlist of candidates for a particular role to the relevant minister who makes his or her recommendation to the Governor In Council (GIC) – effectively the prime minister.

But under the new rules announced today, all GIC posts will be advertised online and will be open for any Canadian to apply.

Candidates will then undergo an “open, transparent and merit-based selection process,” according to today’s announcement, which said the change would lead to a “more rigorous approach to GIC appointments.”

The press release also said that the new system “will make hundreds of part-time positions subject to a formal selection process for the first time.”

Trudeau said: “We are committed to raising the bar on openness and transparency in government to make sure that it remains focused on serving Canadians as effectively and efficiently as possible.

“Government must serve the public interest, and remain accountable to Canadians.”

For each role, the selection criteria will be published, and a shortlist of candidates assessed against these criteria will be provided to the relevant minister, who will still make his or her recommendation to the prime minister.

Once appointments are made, they will be published on the government’s Orders in Council Database.

In order to ensure diversity, recruitment strategies and outreach activities will be used “to reach qualified and diverse pools of candidates” and candidates “will be asked to complete online profiles providing information on their second official language, and where they may voluntarily self-identify as a member of an employment equity group (women, Indigenous Canadians, visible minorities, persons with disabilities) and/or as a member of an ethnic or cultural group,” according to the GIC appointments website.

These steps will “ensure that ministers’ recommendations take into consideration the desire for GIC appointments to achieve gender parity and reflect Canada’s diversity, in terms of linguistic, regional and employment equity representation,” the website states.

The new strategy, today’s press release says, “will result in the recommendation of high-quality candidates who truly reflect Canada’s diversity.”

Coleen Volk, deputy secretary to the cabinet, senior personnel, business transformation and renewal, of the Privy Council Office, who oversees GIC appointments, described the old system as merit-based and open in an interview with Global Government Forum last year.

She said the previous Conservative government had shown a “particular commitment to fair, open and transparent processes for these [GIC] appointments so that it’s not simply a question of appointing a friend or a relative or something like that.”

While she acknowledged that it isn’t “impossible that some of the appointments would have [had] political shades to them” she described the old selection process as “open, transparent and merit-based.”

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See also:

Interview: Coleen Volk, Government of Canada

New pay system saving Canada’s government $50m a year rolled out today

Shared Services Canada heavily criticised in audit report

Nordic countries perform best in global corruption ranking

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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